T Ching is happy to introduce a new contributor, Shefali Upreti, from Kathmandu, Nepal. Her observations about this innovative new tea speak to the leading edge of artistic creativity in the specialty tea industry. 

The tea world comprises an incredible array of flavors and aromas, with a handful of extraordinary teas that embody rare skill and startling characteristics. Among these teas stands Nepal Tea Collective’s Rose Label Reserve.

Produced by Kanchanjangha Tea Estate and Research Center (KTERC) in Eastern Nepal, the Rose Label Reserve has garnered a reputation as the rarest and most expensive tea from the region, commanding a price tag of $100 for 100 grams. The reasons behind this tea’s price are its exceptional taste, rarity, and the experimental verve of young Nepali teamakers that catapulted it into the limelight.

The Pinnacle of Taste

The Rose Label Reserve is a pure black tea that expresses astounding roseate flavors. Defined by its camphorous rose notes, this tea has sweet honey and caramel undertones. 

Chandra Bhattarai, the tea maker at KTERC, has mastered the art of bringing out the finest qualities of the leaves. Each sip is a journey through a lush rose meadow, evoking a sense of sweet romance and captivating the senses. The intricacies of flavor attained through the tea-making process make it a connoisseur’s delight.

The Allure of Rarity

One of the key factors contributing to the tea’s high price is its rarity. The Rose Label Reserve is produced only once a year, and plucked from the rare Bannockburn 157 and Wild Assamica cultivars during the first few harvests of the second flush. 

This limited availability ensures that only a small quantity of this tea is ever made available to tea enthusiasts worldwide. The exclusive nature of the tea creates a sense of prestige and a desire to experience its fleeting splendor.

A Fortuitous Experiment

The journey of Rose Label Reserve began as an accidental encounter with rare tea leaves during an experiment conducted by the talented young teamaker, Nikesh Gurung. Among the hundreds of kilograms of tea leaves processed at the Kanchanjangha Tea Estate, Nikesh recognized a shimmering rarity in a mere 50 kilograms of leaves. Embracing his creative freedom, Nikesh was able to carefully craft these leaves to reveal surprising layers of fragrance and flavor, with a pronounced fragrance of a rose garden. 

An Incentive for Innovation

The pricing of the Rose Label Reserve serves as an incentive for tea farmers and producers to embark on more adventurous and innovative paths in their craft. The success of this tea highlights the potential for valuable discoveries in the world of tea-making, urging others to explore new techniques and embrace their creativity. As tea enthusiasts invest in the experience of savoring a tea like no other, the market signals its appreciation for ingenuity and exceptional craftsmanship.

A Delicate Engagement of the Senses

Enjoyment of the Rose Label Reserve begins with brewing this delicate, romantic tea. The delicate rose-like aroma of the dry black tea leaves swells and suffuses the entire room as the leaves steep in hot water, unfurling to release the entire range of their aroma and flavors. 

For the lovers of delicate and romantic aesthetics, the Rose Label Reserve comes in a hand-carved wooden packaging. 2 grams of the aromatic black tea leaves brew into a deep, rose-tinted liquor after 5 minutes of steeping in boiling temperature water. Using transparent, glass teaware will allow tea-lovers to enjoy the sensuous depth of color of this tea, especially when enjoyed after a romantic, candlelight dinner. 

A Serendipitous Meeting

By chance, tea expert Nalin Modha, who had worked wonders at Kanchanjhanga Tea Estate twenty years ago, happened to be back for a tea tasting while Nepal Tea Collective founder Nischal Banskota and tea development lead at Starbucks, Chris MacNitt, had arrived on the estate for the same purpose. 

After a taste of this special brew, the sommelier Nalin Modha immediately recognized the deeply unique roseate characteristics of this tea. He was able to identify the rare cultivar from which the leaves originated – the Bannockburn-157. Nalin’s knowledge of cultivars was crucial to farmers’  and producers’ ability to recreate luxury tea. 

Nalin Modha

Guest Writer, Shefali Upreti

Shefali is a writer based in Kathmandu, Nepal. Her work can be found on The Kathmandu Post, La.Lit Magazine, The Progenitor and Wingless Dreamer Magazine.